Written for my final paper for my UofU “Intro to News Writing” Course.
Facing Infertility: Ashley and Luke’s Story
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah. – Ashley Erekson, a 28-year-old employee of Discover Card and former Certified Nurse’s Assistant, knew from the age of 14 that something was wrong with her.
For years, Erekson suffered from irregular or absent menstrual cycles, weight gain, acne, and even embarrassing facial hair. As a teenager, her family didn’t have the medical insurance necessary to pursue a reason for her symptoms. Finally, in 2012 after a series of test and blood work Erekson had the reason for her symptoms, she was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).
PCOS, also known as Stein-Leventhal Syndrome, is estimated to affect 10% of American women of childbearing age according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services1. This endocrine system disorder affects a woman’s hormones, weight, insulin levels, menstruation, and ovaries. The syndrome is linked to conditions like anxiety, depression, sleep apnea, skin problems, diabetes, heart problems and something that is often heartbreaking for PCOS sufferers, infertility.
For Erekson, and husband Luke, 31, the diagnoses offered a bittersweet sense of relief; relief that they now knew what was wrong, and fear about what this meant for their future family plans. “It affects every aspect of my life.” said Ashley Erekson, “Actually I feel like the last two years of my life have been complexly consumed by all this.”
It is extremely difficult to conceive a child with PCOS, due to fluid filled cysts that form on the sufferer’s ovaries. For the past two years the Erekson’s have been going through the expensive and long process of fertility treatments, including hormone injections and two failed Intrauterine Inseminations (IUI). With the advice from their doctor, the couple is now moving forward to try In Vitro fertilization (IFV), but the cost is proving to be overwhelming.
The Erekson’s have been amazed by the amount of support they have received from friends and family members and are now reaching out to the general public to raise $3000 toward IVF. They are holding a yard sale fundraiser at their home in West Valley City at 3349 S. 4400 W., on Saturday, Aug. 15, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. There is also an online fundraiser that people can donate to at http://www.gofundme.com/BabyE2016. They are asking for donations of quality second-hand items for the event to be dropped off at their home between now and then.
Tylynn Peterson, a friend of Ashley Erekson and stay at home mom and photographer, will be holding an opportunity drawing in conjunction with the fundraiser. Individuals can purchase an entry ticket for $2 and two lucky people will win an hour photo session, complete with digital photos and edits. Peterson is happy to support the Erikson’s after befriending Ashley Erekson on a mommy blog over the past year.
The issue is important to Peterson as it hits close to home, her sister also suffers from fertility issues. Seeing the Erekson’s and her own sister’s struggle with fertility, Peterson has a unique outlook on the issue and has noticed that some people are uncomfortable with talking about fertility. “It’s hard when people are going through infertility issues like this and it seems kind of taboo to talk about, and it shouldn’t be like that.” Peterson said going on to express her desire that issues like fertility would be spoken of more openly. She wishes that the facts and statistics of PCOS and fertility issues would be better known in order for people to understand how to help those struggling with it.
“Communication and patience have been key,” said both Erekson’s’ to riding out the ups and downs of the last two years. Ashley Erekson spoke of learning to have patience with her own body and herself when things didn’t go like she had dreamed. Through it all they both have benefited as a couple by learning to communicate through the trials. “The lesson for us has largely been on communication,” Luke Erekson said, “On what the dream of our lives in the future is, on what we want to be like.”
The couple is timidly optimistic about the future outcome of the IVF treatment, but success is not guaranteed and relies on many factors. Ashley Erekson has hope in the fact that the IVF success rate for women with PCOS is 60%, versus the 30% success rates for women without the disorder2. But due to limitations set out by her insurance provider as well as the financial cost, she feels that they will only be able to try IVF once. “I am really hopeful it will work, I am really concerned that if it fails we are kind of out of options.” She stated. In the case that the IVF doesn’t take the couple is planning on exploring other options such as adoption and foster care.
Above all else, Ashley Erekson is grateful for the doctors who have provided her with answers to her medical issues and the support of her family, friends, husband and even strangers along the way. She says about the people who have helped her, “There has been a lot of love and it’s been awesome.”